Review Summary: Though bound by generic constraints of its own making, The Connection succeeds in connecting all of Papa Roach’s past sounds to create their most varied album yet to act as an outlet for their over the top energy.
If anything can be said about Papa Roach that’s free of scorn or praise, it’s that their sound has undeniably gone through some radical changes throughout their career. Independently starting out in the mid-90's as a funk metal band with post-hardcore elements that took influence from Fugazi, Papa Roach soon went on to become a rapcore group and subsequently rose to popularity when the nu metal craze of the early 2000‘s came about. Since then, the band slowly evolved from an angsty rap metal squad to a bunch of glammed up 80‘s hard rock revivalists, drawing their influence mainly from the likes of Mötley Crüe.
To dismiss these changes Papa Roach saw over the course of their discography as the band simply jumping from bandwagon to bandwagon wouldn’t fair, as none of Papa Roach’s genre contemporaries have really sounded like them exactly. Similarities can of course be drawn, but none of Papa Roach’s peers haven’t attempted to pursue this 80‘s glam metal revival route. Papa Roach manage to stay one of a kind in their own way and still have their name survive and stay relevant throughout the years by retaining the alternative metal guitar crunch of their more popular genre-mates such as Staind and Three Days Grace, which is the only thing differentiating them from bands even more true to the sunset strip sound such as Hinder and Buckcherry.
This flamboyant niche sound they’ve carved out for themselves has managed to keep Papa Roach alive and somewhat relevant, but has made them sort of an anomaly in the modern radio rock scene, riding on the decent success of one single album after album, barely sustaining the attention they receive that lessens with each new release.
Changes to their sound aside, however, the one thing Papa Roach has always kept consistent is the energy in their music. Though they surround themselves with watered down renditions of outdated sounds that constrict and limit this energy, they’ve always worn a wild heart for intensity on their sleave that is unmatched by their other peers, and thankfully with their seventh studio album The Connection, Papa Roach have managed to convey this energy the present more effectively than they ever have before in their most impactful album to date.
They’re successful in doing so mainly because they bring more genres to the table than they ever have, giving them the band many more angles to work with. The Connection is, in a way, a compilation of every musical avenue Papa Roach has ventured down on their all of their past albums, along with several more recent musical trends they decide to try on for size.
After a long absence, rapping makes a triumphant return to Jacoby Shaddix’s vocal style on the lead single “Still Swingin’”, which is the same track where the band decides to try their hand at a dubstep bass breakdown for the first time, and Papa Roach also dips their feet in the waters of what seems like djent-style riffs on the track “Where Did the Angels Go”. However, these genres are very lazily incorporated into their sound, sounding more thrown on than fully embraced.
While these genres that they are experimenting with are really just modern scene sub-genres, and mostly seem like the band’s attempt to go with whatever is popular at the moment to stay hip, these are modern sounds nonetheless, and The Connection benefits from this because it has more modern sounds and production that compliments their personality-defining, over the top, energetic attitudes better than their glam metal albums ever did.
Unfortunately though, both the styles that have made a return to the band’s sound, and the ones that are new to the band are all displayed here in the most generic way imaginable. Every genre Papa Roach delves into on The Connection is a shallow stereotype of that genres sound, but even still, there is a broad range of sounds to be found on this album, and that variety comes together to make The Connection a solid album, their most modern sounding record in years, and Papa Roach’s most diverse record to date.
While Papa Roach isn’t even attempting to push themselves, or any of the many styles on this album in any new area or direction, they still have the most ballistic energy out of any one of their peers, and how that always seems to shine through counts for something.